-- Edmund Spenser, Complaints.
Like ribs of half melted snow
clouds lay long across the sky
overlapping the high world's glow,
and it seemed to me that this was my
waiting to release fresh cascades
of thought, spewing out of blind
subconsciousness like meteor tirades.
And that never again would I lie
under a ban of stupidity or error --
which is prematurely to die
in pains of self inflicted terror --
but to rage once more like a boy
into the choking creativeness of joy.
The gold has come in blocks and bars
to Torbay, a Nineties' solid summer
full of shimmer, darling seas, long hot
hours, guests and paradise again.
And in the sun-stunned fields about
the Dart the celebrating butterflies, skies'
encapsulating gaze, the dehydrated trees --
all the wonder of old world walls and lanes
empty and waiting as for another life.
Sandwiches on the narrow beach at Galmpton Creek,
trout ringing the flat-faced water, then
summoning the ferryman by loud bell
over the dark luminosity of Raleigh's river
following drinks at the Ferryboat Inn.
Agatha Christie's land once, and Graves's,
now mine, if anyone's, this close-stitched
spread of fields and lanes and river's
perfection, a poet's mind calls up and
praises out of an unsatisfied heart.
It's hard, it's hard remaining stable,
Dear God, I sometimes feel unable!
On some blue morning
of petrol-driven city touch
me and torch me
sun-dusted Baker Street,
snatch me to Bond Street,
lose me in Regent's
take me to Kentish Town.
He toyed with a salt encrusted stone
by the groan of the immarcescible sea,
one soul was his or none
if he could not live as free
as anyone, anywhere chose to be.
But thought of friends in Kentish Town --
its shadowy drunks that most obscure
star-sloganed walls as they go down --
and asked himself: what had they known,
neurotic wits, sad singers, the griefly
gay, word-worriers and the secret elect
with one skin less than most who briefly
shine, then pass back into mystery?
And that was it? Just like this stone,
souls of wonder lost in godless shape
and, therefore, each separate, alone?
An Oxford Street arcade, electronic
fairyland, even for the tough T-shirts life's
a video game, is where the rainbow
ends (for many). But I'm a book,
live a different shelf life.
Buses grunt by, windows glare,
the excitement comes in candy-coloured
waves: we are all slaves of a sort...
the sky above is dotted with prices,
consumerism's music just yells and yells,
the edges of everyday are frankly frayed.
Soho Square bounces on the bedsprings of the future
and when it rains there one can hear
the vociferous leaves licking loudly, for
this post-modern world's still surreal.
A life lusty with data, networking,
tap, tap, tapping the quiet computer keys
but can't forget death's lurking
nor the immortal spindling of the seas
and their unstaunched washed-up trash:
thoughts beautiful as dead-and-alive fish.
So I must go on dipping my cup, my grail
for there is something there, something
in all this ... like deathless powers?
The cascading brain at the heart's behest:
even in our agony we are somehow blest?
even in our ashes the wonted fire?
where Hercules ascends the microsoft pyre.
Now and then the storm-
clouds clear, the estuary's
stripped face gleams serene
The Ancient gazes from
the brine-cracked windowframe --
an enormous mind-sky
a world full of peace --
and sees seabirds ticking
in the retreating tide.
Out of the squeezing mud
the spluttering lugworm rises,
the taxidermic heron stands
still as an old grey rock,
-- Blue eyes in a leathered mask
perceive all this, All,
while water discusses with wind
its next move, under and over.
The psychiatrist opens the door
shows the thin-faced patient in
back to the leather couch,
the gleaming probes of question.
He-she is schizoid, one who's two,
and that's the devil's own truth
sure as heaven-hell's surrounded
by angel-demons' dance of nerves.
It's all about coping in the end.
For he-she goes one way and
the mind -- that ever-rolling planet --
another. Help me, doc, or I am lost.
Pills and poetry, poetry and pills --
what other cure or care for such ills?
It is this: a black hole
in the side of God. Beyond
this blue, light-swirled world,
dust and ashes and emptiness.
A poet does not need
to believe in God
to be religious: thought's
wind rushes and broods
over the heart and that's
enough. The fiat of faith.
But remember this: a space-
craft's endless light years
of travel can neither outreach
nor unravel the endless.
The watch's time ticks till
it bursts. Time's fobbed off.
But between the cascading
water-threads that throw up
star drops which
glisten on a black dome
(lovely light-speckled pantheon)
is joy's choking silence
to which your heart listens.
Think and forget. Feel and know.
A pocket-sized museum, a big
haiku of small-town nostalgia,
the past under glass: pinned photo's'
corroded amulets, coins and pottery --
shards of the amphora of life.
Early Ware, its maltings, gazebos,
the time-stunned dark River Lea
overhung by swimming trees, osiers;
a famous local loco manufacturer, timber
yards where wood matured in old sun,
the slowly changing elegance of its
squat Priory of monkish memory,
and the wooded tumulus beneath which
crouches Scott of Amwell's grotto:
these things restored to browsing
through the memory of photography
(these things shored against our ruin)
and old prints, darlings of detail,
redolent of another time's idyll
all and more (the staring-out folk,
peasant and poor: men in flat caps
with waistcoats and beery moustaches,
heavy women like black dumb bells
with their broods of scrawny brats)
in a pocket-sized museum kept.
...And we walked from Ware to WaresidePublished in South.
through flat fields of summer-spun gold,
and `the idyll' was now not then
for the world itself is a living museum
(one technicolour snap in eternity nature
takes). And as we ambled along long
coarse cart-tracks to the empty horizon
where either side small flowers nudged the breeze,
we knew what it was like to be alive,
knew all the anxieties of beauty and peace --
that it is impossible to hope for more than
friendship and some bright scene to adore.
How I would like to have been your friendPublished in Acumen.
instead of an interloper in your life --
quondam publisher and occasional
correspondent! But I doubt we'd've got on,
you with your poetry and politry, me
with only poetry. Still, Tam, I admired
ye frae the first, poet and polemicist,
wi y'er `polysemous veritism' tuik
frae Dante -- y'auld Villon, villain o' Lallans
whom the kailyard mafias couldna hang!
And you had the music too, cael mor,
that belled out atween your wildest lines,
heathery fragments sound as truth:
the last of the makars in our time,
you worked overtime for the Muse.
I still sometimes think of Epping,
the far away and vanished years
and for a moment, children, want to sing
of a time when you could hear birds, not changing gears;
then you were young and almost mole-small
and ran around in friendly corn,
and we would take that walk to ruined Copt Hall
fire had disembowelled before we were born.
I think of it because it had
magic, was an echoing green time
that only memory could make out sad,
for the heart remembers otherwise what was mine:
the blue-trust of young eyes
among the celebrating campion
knowing something never dies,
but out there by hill and stream goes on and on
and has so much to do with seed and place.
Clamshell city on the edge of time
you cling and star and contain
all the soft human substance
sprinkled with a few stiff bones.
There's no raising your implacable dome
just to get on with living under it,
or become a lone patient, alone
and impatiently ill.
How many days of despair known?
Days crusted with depression,
soul-gore, because even in its crowded-
ness a city's empty, empty.
The rattle of leaves, blown paper's
tedious swish, lamplight's sickly grin:
all this since Troy's fall let
more than Greek bullies in.
When the ghost of Himmler came to BosniaThe Baghavad Gita was apparently Himmler's favourite reading.
with the Bhagavad Gita in his pocket,
I stood in a collector's shop at Eynsham.
Where Aelfric wrote his holy letters,
I held a document of infamy signed by Himmler.
The sunlight of a marvellous summer
came in through roasting windows
to flood my hands like blood.
And last night when you came,
my psychotic friendly chum,
and discussed the swine again,
talked of the death camps then
and `now again',
how Himmler `thought the Führer was divine',
I could only think of that clear bold
signature of a far too little man.
Cigar smoke and roses
got to me, one bon vivant
evening, distinct doses
on the living air
incongruous by the wet harbour-
side. I was everywhere
in that absurdly-scented
moment. Luxuried, sent
hurrying up ladders of
This dull instinct for the everyday
is part of life's deep mystery
so feel the wonder of just how it is
the mind may marvel still at that and this.